In what appears to be a thinly-veiled attack on the U.S. administration, the founder and executive chairman of the e-commerce behemoth Alibaba said trade should not be used as a weapon.
“Don’t use trade as the weapon, use trade as the solution to solve the problems,” Jack Ma said at a panel on the future of e-commerce at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
President Donald Trump has embraced the idea that the U.S. trade deficit should be dramatically reduced or eliminated if America is to grow its economy. This week the U.S. appeared to kick off its new aggressive policy on trade by imposing big tariffs on solar equipment and washing machines from China.
Also on Wednesday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross appeared to suggest that the United States was ready to enter into trade wars. Speaking at a press conference in Davos, he said: “There have always been trade wars. The difference now is U.S. troops are now coming to the ramparts.”
In contrast, Ma said he believed that globalization was ultimately a “great thing” and its side effects have to be accepted.
“Globalization is a growing pain. It is so easy to launch a trade war but it is so difficult to stop a trade war and I’m scared and concerned,” he said.
Ma said that to launch a trade war is easy but it can take as long as thirty years to fix the problems that it causes. The Alibaba boss has previously stated that war starts when trade stops.
According to the World Economic Forum, e-commerce sales worldwide hit an estimated $25.3 trillion in 2015 and are likely to have grown since.
The internet entrepreneur said he expected a future where there would be no “Made in China” or “Made in America” and everything would simply be made on the internet.
In a follow-up question and answer session, Ma said he expected new technology to cause social problems.
“The AI and robots are going to kill a lot of jobs because in the future it’ll be done by machines,” he said
Ma then issued a doomsday warning on where rapid tech development could lead.
“The first technology revolution caused the First World War and the second technology revolution caused the Second World War – and now we have the third.”
The Alibaba boss said he hoped any next world war would be “against disease, pollution, and poverty, not a war against ourselves.”